WALES — Oak Hill girls basketball coach Mike Labonte knew his best player wasn’t a dead-eye shooter. Or the quickest ball-handler. Or the most dominant inside player.

In Abby Nadeau, however, Labonte knew there was a good chance he had the most driven player in each game.

She’s not the most athletic girl on a basketball court, she’s not the strongest,” he said. “She doesn’t excel at any one thing, she’s just really good at everything you want a basketball player to do. … She’ll do the dirty work. She’ll push people around, she’ll fight for loose balls, she’ll take charges. She’ll do whatever it takes to win a basketball game.”

Oak Hill’s Abby Nadeau is the Kennebec Journal Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

The Raiders were one of the area’s best teams, and Nadeau was their best player. The senior forward averaged 11.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, earning first-team distinction for the Mountain Valley Conference and leading Oak Hill to a 16-2 regular-season record and the No. 2 seed in the Class B South tournament.

For her performance, Nadeau is the Kennebec Journal Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Winthrop’s Aaliyah WilsonFalcone and Gardiner’s Bailey Poore were also considered.

“We had so many players step up this year and really work hard. It was really great to see,” Nadeau said. “Every time we played, you really saw our energy out on the floor.”

Few players brought that more than Nadeau, whom Labonte said combined a strong work ethic with a natural feel for the game.

She was almost always the last person to leave practice, working on little things of her own,” Labonte said. “She has a really great head on her shoulders for the game. She really understands the game.”

Nadeau was at her best on defense. In addition to averaging double-digit rebounds, she also notched 3.4 steals per game, even while playing inside. Defense was Oak Hill’s trademark this season, and Nadeau set the standard.

She was the quarterback of our team, especially defensively,” Labonte said. “That was probably our strong point, and she was all over the place defensively. She’s a strong rebounder, and she had great basketball IQ. She really could read things well.”

Nadeau said that’s always been the part of the game that came most naturally to her.

I love to be rebounding and out-hustling and getting all the steals and stuff like that,” she said. “I know I play a big part in our offense, but that wasn’t always the most important part to me. What I always tried to do was play in the background, see the whole court, see the whole picture.”

Nadeau liked defense in part for the effect it can have on a team on both ends of the court.

I would say specifically, this year, that’s what kept us going,” she said. “We just knew if we got this stop, it would make the momentum of our offense even stronger and better. We always kept the mentality of offense wins games, but defense can win championships.”

For Oak Hill to be a championship-caliber team, however, defense wasn’t going to be enough. Nadeau had always been a player that rarely strayed from the paint to shoot or handle the ball, but Labonte challenged her to broaden her game, and in turn become a more versatile player and harder matchup.

Coach definitely got me out of my comfort zone with working in that guard position and really working on my dribbling skills,” she said. “(He’d tell) me ‘Hey Abby, you really need to work the ball. There’s no other way. You’ve got to be able to handle the ball, not just be the big person just taking up room.’ “

“She wasn’t really tickled with being taken off the block and put on the wing,” Labonte said. “But typical Abby, she made it work.”

Nadeau practiced her dribbling and ball-handling at home, and worked on her shot whenever she could leading up to and during the season. And soon, Labonte saw the improvement he was looking for, as his former center became a double threat who could play inside, or stretch out and hit mid-range shots, knock down threes or take the ball to the basket.

She just kept working at it,” he said. “And when she knows it’s something that needs to be done, she goes at it and is tenacious.”

With the work, Nadeau said, came a new outlook on offense.

“As I got more confident, I really started to enjoy offense,” she said. “I definitely love the idea of taking a girl 1-on-1. I love the competition of it, and just knowing ‘I’ve practiced (this) before, I’m going to put it in the game right now and beat you to the basket.’ “

Nadeau’s next step will be playing at Central Maine Community College, which just won the USCAA Division II national title. Labonte has a hunch she’ll succeed there too.

I don’t know if I’ve had a player that’s gotten more out of her individual talents,” he said. “She gets the most out of everything she does.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.